Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 54: Love Me Tender

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

I recently paged through The Five Love Languages of Children. I picked it up because I wanted to glance at the categorized ways of showing love, but skimmed because I knew I wouldn't subscribe to much of its reward-punishment-based philosophy. As is the case with most things, I absorb what resonates and what I think is right for my family and leave the rest behind.

The love languages according to the book are:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch

So I've been actively observing how the boys respond to and offer the different kinds of love.

Max was relatively easy to pin down. The kid loves kisses more than any human being on the planet. Plus, he's a baby, and what does a baby love more than being nursed, cuddled, and held, right? With time and development another may start to dominate, but for now, physical touch is his primary love language.

Jackson has taken much more thought and attention to figure out. He's such a connected and sensitive little boy that they all seem to be dominant! They say that watching how a person gives love is a clue about how they best receive love, but Jackson seems well-versed in all five.

He loves giving compliments (Daddy, I like your shirt!) and pitching in (Mommy, I'm vacuuming the floor for you!). He's always running up to us with something special (*handing me a box of breast pads wrapped in a homer hanky* Mommy, I'm the great birthday bird and I have a birthday present just for you!), he chooses together over alone whenever he can (Mommy, I want to play downstairs. Will you come with me?), and he gives heart-melting gentle touches to all of us all the time.

I just couldn't nail him down to one category. So I asked him. But he never gave a consistent answer, so that didn't help me peg him either.

Then I watched how he responded to me when I showed him love in different ways. And still no definite confirmation.

I finally came to the conclusion that Jackson is so young and such an open person, he's able to give and receive love effectively in each of the five ways. But one of the things I learned through this observation is that when it come to physical touch, he is more responsive to subtle forms of affection. Somehow I hadn't picked up on that before.

Of course he gets and gives lots of hugs and kisses, so there was nothing new there. It was specifically his response to other forms of touch - a gentle rub on his back or holding his hand while we talked - that jumped out at me.

When I or my husband showed him love in these less obvious ways, his body would visibly calm, his voice would quiet or he'd become silent, and all of his attention would be on us and especially on the touch. It was so remarkable that I'm shocked it slipped by me for so long.

When I reflect, he has always given this kind of affection to us. For as long as I can remember, he has gently stroked my arm or my face while he nurses. And when Nick goes to him in the middle of the night, he does the same and softly says, "I'm giving Daddy gentle touches." And of course he's utilized this as a calming technique a few times too.

So today, I decided to put this information to use. While he was watching Daddy on the computer I rubbed his back and played with his hair. He was completely still until I stopped, then he would turn to me and quietly request, "Mommy, I'd like you to keep touching me." What a special way of sharing calm time together and showing love!

Physical touch is pretty low on my list, especially right now when I have two little beings clinging to me all the time, so I guess it's understandable that this one flew over my head for so long. But I'm so glad I've tuned in to it, because I think it will be a very important tool for helping him maintain a balanced and calm spirit.

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